Sunday, 16 September 2012
U n I, RENSHAW ST, LIVERPOOL
Upon stepping into the UnI (pronounced you and I), you are overwhelmed with a proper old-school Indian experience. Twangy sitar music (bizarrely interspersed with Rihanna and Enrique Iglesias), chintz carpet and heady smells. Now Asha, formerly Liverpool's oldest Indian has gone bust, UnI now holds the title of the city's oldest and most authentic Indian eaterie. This piece of local history isn't it's USP however. The reason that most diners flock to this gem isn't its location- it's surrounded by condemned buildings and empty shops in an area which was the Scousers' answer to the Curry Mile in the 1990s, but has now suffered under the double threat of the recession and the city's 2008 redevelopment. It's not its website or advertising either (trawl the net and you'll only find review sites such as this one and TripAdvisor coming up with info of this place). Its USP is, bizarrely, its famous booths. Wow. THE BOOTHS. What a unique experience. These aren't the usual booths from an old school curry house. These are curtained and complete with dimmer switch to add an intimate feel to the place. There is even a bell to press to order your meal. Both foodies and drunk clubbers alike are united in their love of The Booth, providing many a picture opportunity on nights out. The Booths are the place where gossip is shared and secrets are divulged, the diners being lulled into a false sense of security that the booths are soundproofed...
UnI has become wise to the fact that The Booths are a hit and have namedropped them on their napkins and new signage. 'The Cubicle Restaurant' is now its unofficial name according to the napkins. Still prefer calling them The Booths though.
I have been here numerous times, so I will try and sum up all of my meals in one review.
My perfect starter is Raita and a Vegetable Pakora. The pakoras here are plentiful and the veg fresh. One starter is good enough for two people. After much deliberation, I always choose a vegetarian vindaloo and am never disappointed. For the meat eaters, I spied a Malayan Chicken which looked like a nice, exotic alternative. If Biryani is your thing, I am pleased to confirm it DOES come with a fab fluffy omelette, a vital component that lots of curry houses are cutting corners on these days. If you squint, you may be able to see the Biryani in the above pic. As I am so engrossed in the atmosphere of this place whenever I go, I always forget to snap the food. I found this trimmed-down pic in my Facebook archives though- better than nothing!
I remember Christmas 2008 fondly as the period I ate two UnIs in a week. As it was the season to stuff your face and not feel guilty, I ordered copious amounts of pistachio kulfi for dessert and a mango lassi.Refreshing and sweet, it took me away from the stuffy festivities of Xmas and brought me to an exotic paradise!
UPDATE SEP 2012
After a year's absence from the UnI, I was overwhelmed with a craving that not even the Curry Mile could satisfy. I was staying the night in Liverpool and needed to visit my old favourite. I can happily confirm it's still on top form, the vindaloo still potent, the booths chintzy and the naan breads as big as your head. In addition to my usuals, I made room for dessert- a decadent Kulfi of Mango and Coconut, enough to feed two hungry curryholics.